Via Yahoo! News, this is the photo-op one of the journalists at today’s White House press conference was referring to this morning:
Yes, President Bush should be concerned:
Wednesday, Maliki held private talks on security with Ali Larijani, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, followed by a photo-op showing him hand in hand with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a meeting with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He also discussed plans for Iran to build a power station in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City district and supplies of 400,000 tons of kerosene and liquid gas
Meanwhile, in Sadr City:
An American raid and airstrike killed 32 people in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Wednesday, in what American military officials described as an assault on a militant network bringing in money and bombs from Iran.
The American attack coincided with an expanded curfew across Baghdad for a Shiite religious festival welcoming tens of thousands to the capital, and with a trip to Iran by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for discussions about security.
Hospital officials in the Sadr City district of Baghdad said that the American airstrike had killed or wounded several civilians, including a child, though the military disputed that account.
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, an American military spokesman here, said the airstrike was called in against suspected gunmen who were surrounding a vehicle and who were moving toward American troops who had been taking fire. He said 30 people around the vehicle were killed, and 2 more died during the raid, all of them combatants.
“They called in an airstrike on a tactical formation of individuals, on people who were operating as a tactical unit,” Colonel Garver said. “Those are the ones who were hit.”
American military raids causing Iraqi deaths, particularly in Sadr City, frequently lead to conflicting stories. Residents describe some or all of the victims as innocent, while American military statements typically describe those killed by American weapons as militants. In most cases, neither side can provide definitive proof.
Colonel Garver said intelligence indicated that at least one of the intended targets of the raid — in which 12 people were detained — acted as a liaison between the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Shiite Iraqi militias responsible for killing American troops with lethal roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.’s. He declined to provide evidence about any link between the groups or to say whether troops found bomb-making materials in the buildings that they raided.
“As we exploit information and we’re ready to release information, we will,” he said.
The NYTimes also quotes Lt. Col. Steven M. Miska, whom Bryan Preston and I spent time with during our embed in January, on the complex security situation in Khadamiya, where there’s a big Shiite pilgrimage taking place:
Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, imposed a ban on driving in the capital as thousands of Shiite pilgrims began moving toward a shrine to mark the anniversary of the death of a revered figure, Imam Musa al-Kadhim.
Lt. Col. Steven M. Miska, deputy commander of the brigade responsible for the area around the shrine, said American troops were working carefully to protect pilgrims and reduce tensions with Iraqi security forces.
Colonel Miska described cooperation with Iraqi troops as “a complex relationship” after a clash that erupted in April between some of his units and men in Iraqi Army uniforms. Iraqi officials accused the Americans of attacking a mosque serving as the headquarters of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, a charge the Americans denied. Colonel Miska and his men said the battle confirmed that some of the Iraqi security forces they aimed to help were in fact filled with militiamen who were their enemies.
For the most comprehensive compilation of war news and analysis, read The Dawn Patrol.
Andy Bostom was questioning the disturbing Shi’ite alliance last September.